California Court Throws Out Text-Lock Case Against Apple

The death of a California college student by a distracted driver prompts his father to file a claim against Apple for a failure to institute a program to disable texting while driving.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge, Judge Maureen Folan decided against plaintiff Craig Riggs in August, saying he had not adequately proved that  Apple should bear responsibility in the death of his son, David Riggs in 2013. The suit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning no option of refiling the claim.

David Riggs died in 2013 while riding a scooter on the way to his Minnesota home. He was hit by distracted teen driver sending text messages on his iPhone in a Honda Civic. The teen was only convicted of a misdemeanor.

In Riggs suit, he notes that Apple filed a request for a patent for a mechanism to lock out certain functions on the iPhone while driving in 2008. The United States Patent and Trademark Office granted the patent in 2014. This fact was used as an attempt to prove Apple was aware of the risks texting and driving presents. It further claimed that Apple employed unfair business practices by failing to implement the technology.

The 2016 Meador vs Apple suit was referenced in court with Superior Court Judge Folan on the verdict against Apple’s liability also. The reasoning being the act of texting a vehicle in motion did not put anyone in apparent danger. It is only when the driver becomes negligent by choosing to manipulate the phone as opposed to perform the duty of safely operating the car. It was deemed unreasonable to assume Apple had any responsibility for the driver’s choice or any damage that ultimately occurs.

Apple continuously incurs legal trouble on the topic of texting while driving. MLG Automotive as recently as January 2017 filed a similar class action lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court with the same argument concerning the patent and Apple’s failure to implement it. It was their claim Apple failed to make use of the technology out of fear that they will lose market share to other phone manufacturers who did not use it.

Earlier in August, Apple counseled the court to dismiss another suit from plaintiff Julio Ceja saying he was unclear about his accident, injuries and Apple’s supposed involvement. Christopher Chorba of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher represented Apple saying Chorba was unable to provide enough clear evidence to prove his case.

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